Category Archives: Voice Over

Actress Elysia Rotaru on breaking into performance capture work

ELYSIA_7439My name is Elysia Rotaru and I have been working as a professional actress since 2008. You may recognize me from the hit show Arrow and the voice of Beatrice Villanova in FIFA 2018, FIFA 2019, and FIFA 2020, as well as countless other films and television series.

In 2010, I also began my voice over career. As a voice artist, I have lent my voice to over 1000 projects, ranging from, commercials, animations, video games, promo spots for TV Networks and selected shows, educational videos, phone systems, A.I technologies and operating systems and many more, working with clients in the USA and Canada on a global scale.

The world of voice over is vast, fast and a ton of fun, and is a great compliment to working on camera, if you can maintain the balance and stay open to the opportunities.

Performance capture work is a great way to expand your skill set as an actor. Remember Avatar? Or Gollum in Lord of the Rings? These performances used performance capture technology to blend real life and animation, allowing you to film someone live and transfer them into computerized form. If you are looking to branch out into this genre of the field, but don’t quite know how to get your foot in the door, I’ve included some helpful tips and insider information below.

How to prep

Well there are now classes you can take to get familiar with all the oddities of the performance capture world, and I recommend pairing that with acting classes and voice over classes, if you’re just starting out in the biz in general. Also any extraordinary skills like martial arts, sword work, stunting, dance etc. are a bonus in my eyes. This area is one of the most challenging ones to break into, so having a great voice and/or on-camera agent who is in-the-know about this work would be great. A voice over demo and video reel showcasing your physical skill sets is a huge step up as well and hopefully gets you through the door to an audition.

During the audition

With performance capture video games, they may not only be looking for “realistic, grounded and engaging ” voice performances, they are also looking to hire you for your aesthetic and physical portrayal of your character(s). This area of the voice over world is a unique blend of theater, on camera and perhaps stunt work. Therefore, the more training you have, especially in specific areas like sword work, dance, firearms etc. might give you an advantage.

When it comes time to audition, one must prepare the script to be off-book. They ask that you also show off as much physicality as possible from the given stage directions and if there are none, time to use your imagination to show off your range, creativity and commitment to the work. Also, wear form fitting clothes, as the casting director will usually have that noted in detail.

It’s important to remember the audition is usually a full-body frame, where all your physical life can be seen. I know they also appreciate facial expressions, as that is a huge element to performance capture.

Now also note: the projects are 99.9% of the time super confidential with strict NDA’s and the material you’re auditioning with may not be the actual script. So, it’s really up to you to do the best you can with your prep and bring it to life, fully articulated in voice and body and have fun!

The job

When you book the job and get on to a performance capture set, it’s a magical experience.

Your preparation must be amazing in regards to having the text memorized/off-book. Depending on the project, you can usually figure out what you’re prep work will entail.

However, you should be able to create character choices that support the story ahead of time and bring in your choices, an also be ready to let go of them too, if new direction is presented on the day.

Be ready to work in a Velcro bodysuit, covered in reflective balls with a tiny camera attached to headgear pointed at your face the whole time and dots marked on your face. This isn’t the on camera glam you can experience on a TV or film set so be ready to feel a little vulnerable and out of your comfort zone, that is until you get in the zone.

You will be working with a large group of people: a dev team, make-up artists, producers, a voice director, cinematic director, the rest of the cast, and more, so be ready to learn new rules that are particular to performance capture, that after repeating a few times, will become second nature in that environment.

The crew usually helps build you a basic set, but most often, your imagination and guidance from the directors are what you play by. In some cases, you might be given new lines to memorize on the day, like a soap opera and with a limited number of takes to execute the scenes.

The work takes place in what is normally called a “volume”, a large space with hundreds of cameras lining the walls and ceiling to capture every single movement the actors in the scenes will perform. From a grand gesture like walking and waving, to the tiniest movement, like a pinky finger twisting and the furrow of a brow. Having a great sense of spatial and physical awareness is a great asset, hence why I see a lot of actors with theater training booking work in the performance capture world. That is not to say you must have that as a background, as anyone with a desire to learn and the passion for the craft of acting and voice work can have great opportunities and a fulfilling career working in performance capture.

Mike Goral’s narration of docuseries “Polar Bear Town” captivates audiences

Mike Goral has built his career in acting without the “lights, camera, action” experience. Instead, he works alone, in a small sound-proofed room, with only a microphone as his partner. Goral is a voice actor, and has narrated projects appreciated by millions, both in his home country of Canada and the United States.

While working in the industry for over twenty years, Goral has worked on promos and imaging products for some of the world’s most recognized companies, narrated television shows for some of the largest networks, and voiced segments for local radio stations that thousands listen to every single day. He is extremely versatile, and has genuine passion for what he does. While working for the television show Polar Bear Town for the Smithsonian Channel, Goral is able to do what he loves while continuously learning about something he knew nothing about, making each day completely different.

“I thought Polar Bear Town was a really cool story. I loved the script and the story. It’s always fun to work on a production that is well-planned. The production team was awesome and I was drawn to the project immediately. Nothing beats working with great people,” said Goral.

Polar Bear Town is a documentary series about a community of people in Churchill and Northern Manitoba, Canada that reside in a part of the continent where polar bears dwell at certain times of the year. People from all over the world travel to this remote community to get a close-up, in-person look at the mighty polar bear.

“I’ve heard stories about Churchill for years. It’s one of the most remote communities in Canada. I grew up in Southern Ontario, nowhere near Northern Manitoba, and the polar bear stories were legendary. I always heard that some people carried guns up there because of the imminent danger of bear attacks. I always thought it would be a cool place to visit, but haven’t made my way up there just yet,” said Goral. “I’ve learned so much about Churchill, Manitoba because of this show. I’ve experienced a different culture within my own native country. I found the people’s stories fascinating: people who make a living out of being tour guides for seeing polar bears, up-close in their natural habitat. I didn’t even know such careers existed. “

As the narrator for the show, Goral has what he describes as the unique privilege of telling a great story to a large audience of viewers. Each episode shows a different element to the story, and there are different tones in the episodes. There are parts where there is imminent danger, and Goral has to deliver his narration with a certain intensity. Then, there are parts where two of the cast members are arguing, which requires different cadence to his deliveries. The narration is key to the show’s success.

“The story takes a lot of different turns, and I have to use all that I have learned over the years to help make those make transitions when I am telling the story. It was a lot of fun, and it’s what I love to do,” he said.

Goral has now voiced the first season of Polar Bear Town, and he worked with director Jeff Newman on this most recent season. The two have a great sense of teamwork, as Goral describes the director as awesome, and a consummate professional.

“Jeff is very focused and would walk into our sessions knowing exactly what he needed done. He gave very clear direction, and was a lot of fun to work with. We shared a lot of laughs while working together too. The process was relaxed and enjoyable. I really hope to work with him again. Nothing beats good chemistry,” described Goral.

Newman agrees, and says working with Goral is fantastic and a lot of fun. As the director, he knows the importance of a voice actor, especially for a documentary type of show. Narration is pivotal to the telling of the story.

“Mike’s easy to work with, consistent, and has a great delivery. He takes direction really well and was able to give me exactly what I needed really fast,” said Newman. “This series has a wide range of reads to it, from scientific and informational, to intense adventure, to balls out fun. Mike was able to cover all the bases and provide the right tone in every scene.”

Despite discussing polar bears so frequently, Goral has found he is more scared of them than he once was, becoming more aware of how dangerous the bears are.

“There was one segment of the series that described the vicious attack of a local woman. She almost lost her life. I couldn’t imagine experiencing something like that. I think going through something like that can change a person forever,” said Goral.

While his subject matter might be harsh, the experience is a great one for Goral. Working on Polar Bear Town allows him to do what he loves on a regular basis, and although he is not featured on the screen, but rather through the speakers, fans appreciate the value that he adds to each episode.

 “I really enjoy it. When you are part of something you like, it’s a lot of fun. You get to be a part of something great. I just loved the way the series was produced. It was an awesome production team. They were true professionals, and that’s what made it such a pleasure,” he concluded.

You can watch full episodes of Polar Bear Town here.

Actor Lucas Zaffari Overcomes All Challenges While Dubbing

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Brazilian actor Lucas Zaffari

There are many different types of acting, but the most universally recognized can often be when one is standing on a stage or in front of a camera. For Brazilian actor Lucas Zaffari, a different type of acting challenge is presented to him on a regular basis.

Zaffari dubs Spanish telenovelas into Portuguese, his native language. Dubbing, also known as revoicing, is the replacement of the voices of the original actors with a different performer in another language. To do so, Zaffari receives the video and script with all the timelines of exactly where his character speaks and reacts in an episode. He then studies those lines and goes to a sound studio to record the revoicing of his character.

“As an actor, specifically for film and television, you get all you can from circumstances that are happening around you and in your imagination. When it’s me, I try to absorb as much stimuli as I can from my acting partner, location, sometimes music, smells, senses,” he said. “But in a sound studio all you have is a cubicle with foam and the recordings that you see on the screen, and on top of that, all you have to show what your character is feeling is through your voice. It is challenging.”

Zaffari is currently cast in three telenovelas with Voxx Studios. These seven to nine month commitment are the Colombian Allá Te Espero which is soon to be completed, Venezuela’s Piel Salvaje, and the Venezuelan American Voltea Pá Que Te Enamores.

Although it is more common for Portuguese dubbing studios to be in Miami and Brazil, Voxx set up their studio in LA because they believe that is where the most talented actors are located.

“I’m really honored to know that after I joined Voxx Studios, they continued to hire me on all of their new telenovelas. It’s a great opportunity to voice different characters,” said Zaffari.

The sound booth where Zaffari works is a cubicle about eight feet by eight feet covered in foam so the sound does not reverberate, a microphone, a headphone, two televisions (one for the video and one for the lines with the proper time codes). There is also a sound-proof window that goes through to a different room where the sound engineer and the director are located.

“It can be quite hard,” described Zaffari. “You need to match your voice to the mouth of the original actor. Sometimes the Spanish is too fast and it is hard to match everything in Portuguese to that pace. Sometimes we have to change it to what people would understand instead of a perfect translation, without changing the meaning, of course.”

Zaffari describes acting as the hardest job in the world. He says that feeling as someone else is extremely challenging, but with dubbing, you do not have the capability to pull from your surroundings and react instantly to the people around you.

“Dubbing is not on location,” he said. “You are in a cubicle. You don’t have another actor to pull emotion from. Your partner is a microphone and a television. The senses I use when I am acting

I can’t use when I am dubbing. I am not there. You need to put all of those things you would normally use into your microphone and just use your voice.”

Despite the challenges that dubbing can present, there are many parts that Zaffari enjoys.

“In a way it is less stressful because you are not on camera so you can just wear your comfortable clothes,” he said. “But I really like to put a little bit of my interpretation into a character, even though it is another actor’s performance.”

Zaffari said that when he first started dubbing, he was conflicted on how to approach each character.

“Should I dub as my personal interpretation of what that character is going through? Or as the original actor’s interpretation?,” he said, describing his initial thought process. “But to me now, it is a mixture of those two things.”

Leila Vieira, Zaffari’s dubbing director for Piel Salvaje, thinks Zaffari’s mixture is working out very well.

“One of the main qualities an actor has to have in order to be good at dubbing is being able to recognize and mimic pace,” described Vieira. “Lucas has an incredible ability for listening to the dialogue and being able to reproduce it in Portuguese with perfection, making the process fast at the same time as high quality with his great acting skills. Aside from recognizing pace, acting with only your voice can be a challenge that Lucas masters with flying colors.”

Vieira believes that it is not only Zaffari’s inherent talent that makes him successful at dubbing, but also his personality as a whole.

“Lucas is the nicest person you could ever work with,” she said. “Not only he has an amazing working ethic, but he also has a great personality that accepts critiques and understands the adjustments, which makes the whole process fast and productive.”

Sebastian Zancanaro, another director at Voxx, describes Zaffari as the ultimate professional.

“I cast Lucas as Francisco (Pacho) in the dramatic soap opera Alla Te Espero and I was mesmerized by his commitment to our team and by his stamina. His unique skill as a Portuguese speaker actor in conjunction with his acting abilities make him one of our most valuable cast members,” said Zancanaro. Lucas has also being cast as Pedro in our upcoming soap opera project entitled Our Family, our longest and most prized project to date.

Zaffari says that dubbing with Voxx is a great working environment.

“It is so much fun,” he said. “There are so many nice and talented people around, which makes this creative work much more richer.”

Zaffari has no plans on slowing down.

This versatile actor has already started dubbing the new telenovela Somos Família (Our Family) as Pedro.

Dwayne Hill: The Funny Man Behind Many of Our Favorite Characters!

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Canadian actor Dwayne Hill

The most valuable skill an actor can possess is the ability to completely transform themselves and become so unrecognizable from one role to the next that a viewer no longer sees the actor, but the character. In doing so they bring that role to life, they immerse the audience in the story and make them forget for a while that they’re watching a work of fiction.

Dwayne Hill is one of the greats. He is the recipient of an ever-growing number of international awards and nominations, the man behind hundreds of characters in both film and television, and the voice of countless advertisements for some of the biggest companies in the world. If you’ve been within earshot of a television this week, chances are pretty good you’ve heard his inimitable voice.

In his capacity as a voice-over actor in advertising, Hill’s contributions are legion. He has done more than 1,000 commercials for innumerable businesses including Toyota, 7/11 and MasterCard. Presently, he serves as the voice of Vonage.

Hill played the fan-favorite role of Coach Carr in Mean Girls, easily the most iconic high school comedy of the 2000s and arguably since John Hughes’ films of the 80’s. His performance as Coach Carr, the hyperbolic sex education teacher with a “scared straight” approach, made him one of the film’s most quotable characters, and a source of frustration for the protagonist, played by Lindsay Lohan (Freaky Friday, The Parent Trap).

Coach Carr was exactly the kind of ridiculously outlandish teacher that exists at virtually every high school, believable in his absurdity. The screenplay for Mean Girls was written by the amazing Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) whose trademark blend of dry wit and whimsical satire are apparent in the Coach Carr character, which Hill brings to life perfectly.

“I had a great time playing Coach Carr,” said Hill, praising both the role and the writing. “Tina Fey is a genius.”

Incredibly gifted as a screen actor, Hill also possesses an exceedingly rare talent for breathing life into animated characters through his amazingly varied voice-over work.

“I somewhat unconsciously become the character I play,” Hill said, describing the way a person of his talents gets in character when that character happens to be a cartoon. “I stoop my back and flail my arms; to an outsider I’m sure I look like a madman, but I really can’t help it.”

He has mastered 40 accents, and has voiced hundreds of roles in over 70 animated series. Recently, he became the voice of Cat on the PBS cartoon Peg + Cat.

“It has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my career. It’s a show that makes math fun for kids, and it does it through songs and great stories,” Hill said. “If you’ve got kids aged two to five they’ll love it, I promise.”

Peg + Cat has been a huge hit with not only kids, but also with parents who have come to rely on the exceedingly high standards of PBS programming to supplement the early childhood education of their children. The show has won four Daytime Emmy Awards, and Hill’s vocal talents earned him a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program.

Another of Hill’s long list of star-studded credits is the wildly popular Gemini Award-winning animated television series Braceface, starring and loosely based on the life of MTV Movie Award winner and Golden Globe-nominated actress Alicia Silverstone (Clueless, Batman & Robin). Hill’s incredible voice talents earned him the role of Silverstone’s dentist on the show, which helped launch the career of Canadian Comedy Award winner Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad, Arrested Development).

Hill’s most massive television undertaking, Atomic Betty, saw him playing 26 different characters. Each of the roles he voiced in the popular Canadian animated series was a distinct individual, entirely original and with their own unique personality. His huge contributions to the show earned him the 2009 Gemini Award for Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series.

Atomic Betty was an amazing experience,” Hill said. “Kevin Gillis, who produced the series, is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever worked with. He trusted the talent to meet every challenge, and it was truly inspiring.”

His reputation as a prolific actor with a gift for assuming any character he plays or voices has made Hill one of the most sought after names in an ever-growing business.

Alan Morrell, Dwayne’s business manager at Creative Management Partners, says “Dwayne is truly one of the greats and at the tip of the iceberg for his career accomplishments current and future. His road ahead is going to be stellar.”